How To Cope With Devastating Pet Loss

For most of us, our pets are our family. There is so much to love about the excitement a puppy exudes when we get home from a long day at the office, or the way our cats purr and snuggle, letting us know they care. For this very reason, it is so devastating when we lose one of our beloved animals. The initial loss is incredibly traumatic, but the days following losing a pet can be the most difficult (via Humane Society). The amount of grief we experience could be surprising at first, but loss like this really takes a toll. Our houses and routines change due to their absence, and heartbreak like this is intense.

Although nothing can take away the pain of losing a pet completely, taking care of yourself or providing solace for other family members may seem daunting. Pets are such an integral part of many of our lives, and just like losing a human family member, it takes time to get over this event (via Cleveland Clinic). However, there are steps you can take to make the transition to healing easier.

Allow yourself time to grieve

Because our pets are family members, losing one is extremely emotional. Make sure to give yourself time to grieve (via Everyday Health). Take a break from your normal routine, call in to work if you can, and let yourself and your loved ones rest. Don't expect to bounce back quickly from a loss of this caliber. Grief takes time, and your grief is valid (via Cleveland Clinic). In addition to this, understand that grief is different for everyone. Some people deal with loss by crying, others by staying quiet, and others by wanting time alone. While you help yourself grieve, make sure you are giving your family members space to do the same in their own way.

Accept feelings of guilt

No matter how your pet lost their life, owners often deal with feelings of guilt. Knowing this is a normal part of the healing process can help. People take responsibility for their pets and everything that happens to them (via Everyday Health). Although unwarranted, those guilty feelings may dissipate as quickly as they came on. No matter what, be patient with yourself and try to remember that their death is not your fault. In addition, don't feel guilty for holding on to things that were important to your pet. Collars, leashes, and pictures are great pieces of memorabilia that can help you remember your time with them.

Talk to a professional

Some people grieve publicly and some privately. No matter where you fall on the grief spectrum, consider talking to someone. It may be enough to express your feelings to a close friend or family member, but if you aren't getting the support you need, it may take a professional to get you through this time. In addition, extend that same option to other family members (via Cleveland Clinic). Children may have a hard time understanding the loss of a pet, and verbalizing their grief to a therapist may be just what they need to work through these complex emotions. In addition, some places offer a pet loss support group where you can meet with others experiencing these same feelings (via Humane Society).

Don't rush to replace your pet

It's tempting to fix a wound of this kind with another pet, but be cautious about doing this too soon. Just like building a relationship with people, it takes time to bond with a pet. If you haven't completely healed and taken the time to grieve the loss of your best friend, your heart may not be ready to open itself up to someone new (via Humane Society). The new pet could never replace the old one, and a new four-legged friend deserves your undivided attention. This will be way easier when you've healed yourself from your initial loss. Instead of shopping around for a new pet friend, try creating a memorial for your deceased pet (via Psych Central). Write about them in a journal or collect pictures of them to display. 

Take care of yourself

Throughout this grieving process, do not forget to take care of yourself. Proper diet, exercise, and sleep will be essential to heal from the inside out (via Psych Central). If you've already got a healthy lifestyle, try adding a new routine to really take some stress away. Consider a bubble bath, nightly meditation, or grab a good book for an escape. No matter what you choose, taking care of yourself will help you take care of your grieving family members. 

Losing a pet is one of the hardest parts of life. Our pets are our best friends, our workout partners, and our place of peace when the days are stressful. As you work to get back to a new normal with your family, give yourself time, talk to someone, and treat yourself with compassion until the grief subsides.